Sometimes an ulcer may involve just the surface
lining of the digestive tract. The person may then have a slow but constant
loss of blood into the digestive tract. Over time,
anemia may develop because of this slow blood
If ulcers become larger and extend deeper into the digestive
tract lining, they may damage large blood vessels, resulting in sudden, serious
bleeding into the intestinal tract. This can be very dangerous. Without prompt
medical treatment to stop the bleeding, a person could bleed to death. Blood
transfusions often are needed when serious bleeding occurs.
Nearly half of all cases of sudden (not long-term) bleeding from
the upper gastrointestinal tract are caused by peptic ulcers. In the United
States each year, there are about 150,000 cases of hospitalization due to
bleeding peptic ulcers. Treatment with endoscopy can control bleeding in nearly
If you are vomiting blood and/or material that looks like coffee
grounds, or if you have stools that are black, look like tar, or are maroon or bloody, see a doctor immediately. The chances of successfully treating your
ulcer are best if you see a doctor when you first notice any bleeding.
Perforation occurs when an ulcer eats through the wall of the
stomach or intestine into the abdominal cavity.
Although perforation is a much less frequent
complication than bleeding, it is still a significant problem in people with
unsuspected or untreated peptic ulcers.
When perforation occurs, partially digested food,
bacteria, and enzymes from the digestive tract may spill into the belly cavity,
causing inflammation and infection (peritonitis).
usually causes sudden and severe pain. Treatment usually requires urgent
hospitalization and surgery.
Cryer B, Spechler SJ (2006). Peptic ulcer disease. In
M Feldman et al., eds., Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 1089-1110.
Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Jerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
January 28, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
January 28, 2010
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